Start-ups and SMEs should ‘look abroad’ for scale

Venture capitalist Brian Caulfield says entrepreneurs need to build a business they are passionate about

Bru Brewery co-founder Daire Harlin: “We are missing out on massive opportunities because we don’t have the staff. We don’t have the money to employ them. We are taking a punt now that we are going to employ the staff and hope the money will follow.”

Bru Brewery co-founder Daire Harlin: “We are missing out on massive opportunities because we don’t have the staff. We don’t have the money to employ them. We are taking a punt now that we are going to employ the staff and hope the money will follow.”

Fri, Jul 4, 2014, 01:00

Start-ups and SMEs must look to markets abroad if they want to scale their business, Horseware Ireland founder Tom MacGuinness has said.

Speaking at Start-up Night in Dundalk, the entrepreneur said it is not possible to grow a very large business in Ireland alone.

“We do not have the people in this country. If you want to scale, you have to look abroad.”

He also advised aspiring entrepreneurs that they can’t grow a business on their own.

“As your business grows you need to change. If you want to grow your business, you need people.”

Mr MacGuinness, who was an unlikely entrepreneur after dropping out of college and joining the missionaries for eight years, said his company is now the world’s leading manufacturer of horse blankets.

“We do about €35 million in turnover. We have two factories in China, we’ve one in Cambodia, we’ve one in Dundalk and we have one in North Carolina.”

Bru Brewery co-founder Daire Harlin told of his experience going from life as a solicitor to setting up a company.

“Starting a manufacturing company in Ireland over the last couple of years was not that easy. We first had to come up with funding. Unfortunately for us, we needed about €250,000 to buy our equipment to get up and running.”

He said the brewery grew so quickly they didn’t have enough staff to keep up, nor the money to hire them.

“We are missing out on massive opportunities because we don’t have the staff. We don’t have the money to employ them. We are taking a punt now that we are going to employ the staff and hope the money will follow. I’m trying to brew the beer, manage the accounts, clean the toilets, there’s just not enough time.”

Addressing attendees at Start-up Night Dublin, venture capitalist Brian Caulfield said entrepreneurs need to learn how to sell their product.

“Learn how to sell because if you’re an entrepreneur, even if you’re not the face of the business, you need to know how to sell,” he said.

“It’s really really important to build a business that you’re passionate about. Don’t build a business that you think someone else wants you to build.”

He told the audience how he executed possibly the cheapest management buyout in history: “I think two Swiss francs did actually change hands.”

He also gave some advice in the “dark art” of raising venture capital: “If you want money ask for advice, if you want advice ask for money.”